Chapter Four – Will There Be a Coup?

The Civilian Section of the Capitalist Class

In this respect, all the sections of the capitalist ruling class are absolutely useless and irrelevant. Of course, those of them in power in PDP, APP and AD would tell you that another term of office is what they need to be able to complete the wonderful jobs they are doing at the moment, while those of them not directly in power are boasting of performing more wonders if voted into power.
Significantly however, all the strata of the capitalist ruling class, within and outside the registered political parties subscribe to a private sector led, market driven economy. In other words, they all severally and collectively subscribe to the prevailing unjust capitalist order, where the overwhelming majority remain in squalor, in the midst of abundant resources and inexhaustible potentials. Naturally, every one of their policies and conduct poses a serious danger to the interest of the vast majority of the working masses and Nigeria’s so-called nascent democracy in particular.

If you complain about mass unemployment of the employable, members of the capitalist class will say there is insufficient money to provide job for every person in society. If you complain about mass retrenchment, the usual answer is that government and employers of labor do not have enough money to keep the retrenched workers in their jobs. If you ask them why they are hiking up the cost of food, housing, health care, education, telecommunications, etc in the midst of mass unemployment and mass retrenchment, where wages are grossly inadequate and yet never get paid regularly, the standard ruling class response is that money is not enough to attend to these needs.

However, no matter how deep the economic crisis is, no matter how high is the shortfall in revenues, members of the capitalist class in position of authority in public and private sectors have always had enough money to meet their own obscene, opulent life styles. Whenever they are not busy looting the treasury via fake and over-bloated contract deals, with their local and foreign business partners and companies, they will be busy using their privileged position to award to themselves outrageously fat salaries and allowances.

If it should be stressed, this kind of reprehensible conduct is inevitable under capitalism. To start with, capitalism glorifies a bizarre situation where one individual like Bill Gate is richer than say 500 million people on earth. This is the joy of private enterprise. But then this “joy” can only be made possible through the robbing, by a few individuals/capitalist corporations, of what belongs to all. In this context, capitalism itself is the mother of all corruption. In a neo-colonial capitalist set up like Nigeria, where the vast bulk of members of the capitalist class do not have independent capital or source of money outside state’s treasury and public contracts, the organic corruption of capitalism assumes a more obscene, provocative character. If you are not in direct position of power and authority, in private and public sectors or have connection with those in authority, you are virtually an economic and political nonentity.

This primarily is what sharpens the intra and inter party conducts and relations of the six registered political parties, particularly PDP, AD and ANPP which have been ruling parties since 1999. For instance, these so-called parties are run in highly undemocratic manner. All, without exception, lacks active grass-root membership. The affairs of these parties are invariably dictated and bulldozed by the factions in control of state treasuries and apparatuses. There is one exception though: most segments of these “parties” agree that additional political parties should not be registered to contest power with them, lest they lose out. The working masses are thus faced with a no-win situation on all fronts. Neither the policies nor its current implementation can be changed! In this context, the so-called 2003 elections will be nothing but a cynical monumental farce, of course, with serious negative socio-political implications for Nigeria and the working masses in particular.

Therefore, none of the registered bourgeois parties represents the way forward for the masses. Their continued stay in power will only further deepen the alienation of the masses from civil rule. Severally and collectively, their conducts will be such that could only make the least conscious sections of the working masses to begin to see military rule as a better alternative to the prevailing suffocating economic and political realities of civil rule.

A central reason why there is growing disillusionment with civil rule is because bourgeois civil rule essentially functions like a dictatorial clique, aside from the widespread greed, rapacious corruption which characterize this rule. The intolerant, absolute undemocratic regimes which predominate in intra and inter-party affairs have very little in common with democracy. Under past military rules, formation of political parties were the absolute prerogatives of the powers that be. Sadly, this counter-productive undemocratic practice has been upheld by their civilian bourgeois successors.

The Military Wing of the Capitalist Class

Nevertheless, it will be grossly mistaken to see the military wing of the capitalist class as a credible alternative to the hopelessness and rottenness of the civilian bourgeois. In the first instance, the foundation of the prevailing rottenness, economically and politically, was laid under the rule of the military wing of the bourgeois. Secondly, it is not civil rule or democracy that is responsible for the prevailing poverty in the midst of inexhaustible plenty. Rather, it is capitalism which places the insatiable profit greed and egos of a few above the needs and aspirations of the majority that is responsible for this deplorable state of affairs.

This situation will only be worsened by a return to power of the military wing of the bourgeois. By nature, military rule is dictatorial and arbitrary in form and content. Yes, there is widespread corruption today under civil rule. However, the widespread nature of this deplorable phenomenon is due to the nature of civil rule which has to necessarily accommodate more structures and officials than what is needed under military government. Under military rule, individuals like General Babangida, Abacha or Abubakar could steal more in a month than what a group of hundred politicians will have the opportunity to steal in a four year tenure. Therefore, an acceptance of military rule as an alternative to bourgeois civil rule is like moving from a frying pan into fire.

What the masses need is a complete economic and political democratization of the society, not a choice between the barbarism and corruption of the civilian and military wing of the bourgeoisie.

A New Period of Military Rule?

What then are the perspectives for a new period of military rule? At the present period, a military coup, though not entirely ruled out, is not a likely development due to the mass local opposition and international condemnation that it will receive. However, as capitalist civil rule becomes increasingly discredited and the masses further alienated, a section of the military might bid for power purportedly to “rescue the nation” from corruption and chaos created by politicians as it happened on 15th January, 1966 and 31st December, 1983. By taking some populist measures, such as arrest of corrupt politicians, such a coup might be received with apathy or sympathy rather than opposition by wide layers of the masses.

It is also possible that rather than an outright military coup, the ruling class or sections of it might opt to use “state of emergency rule” with severe repressive measures in order to deal with growing mass opposition or nationalist/separatist movements. This “state of emergency” under a civilian government is a less costly option for the ruling class than an outright military coup which might attract sharp local and international condemnation. The massacres carried out by the army in Odi in 1999 and Zaki Biam in 2001 and the threat by President Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency in Lagos during ethnic clashes in the city in 2000 indicate the extent the ruling class could go when it perceives that its vital interests are seriously threatened.

However, it will be erroneous to simply assume that any future military coup will be broadly welcome across the country in the same manner as in 1966 and 1983 due to mass disaffection with the civilian politicians. The national question has become sharper in Nigeria in recent years particularly since the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections won by MKO Abiola, a politician from the Yoruba Southwest, but whose results were nullified by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, a member of the northern Hausa-Fulani section of the ruling class. Though the feeling of northern domination has been somewhat moderated in the south west in particular and the south in general as a result of the election of and hand-over of power to Obasanjo, another bourgeois from the south west, the reverse would be the case if there should be a military coup whose main organizers or officers appointed after the coup are of northern extraction. Such a development would further heighten ethnic feelings and increase the tendency towards a break-up of the country.

Another possible development in the coming period is the staging of a “radical” coup by junior rank military officers, similar to the Jerry Rawling’s second military coup in Ghana in 1981. Since the change in the global political situation after the collapse of the Soviet Union and other Stalinist states, popular, radical military regimes are no longer the fashion in the “Third World” countries. There is also the local fact that no junior rank officers led coup has ever succeeded in coming to power to form government. In January 1966, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and his colleagues only succeeded in killing certain principal officers of the state but the succeeding military government was formed by top military officers. In February 1976, the Lt. Col. Dimka led coup succeeded in killing the then military head of state, General Murtala Mohammed but were never able to come to power.

The Major Gideon Okar led coup of 1990 was described by General Ibrahim Babangida, the then head of ruling military junta as the most bloodied in the history of Nigeria. Significantly too, the authors were not able to physically arrest or eliminate the principal state officers let alone being able to form a government.

The unresolved nationality question is also one factor that at the moment tends to militate against military coups either by the tops of the military or the junior ranks. For instance, if a military coup occurs today and its leaders are mainly perceived as representatives of a particular nationality that could set in motion an aggravated nationality crisis which could engulfed not only the coup plotters but the country as an entity. Right now, the House of Representatives has passed a resolution asking President Obasanjo to resign within two weeks or be prepared for an impeachment. In response to this constitutionally legitimate process, some pan-Yoruba nationalist groups have been threatening secession of Yorubas from Nigeria should Obasanjo be impeached by elements seen as representatives of the Hausa-Fulani nationality. Nonetheless, it is not entirely ruled that under the impact of severe economic and social crisis, and where the working class could not take political power, junior military officers could stage a coup with an honest intention of cleaning the Aegean stable. Such a regime could take measures against corrupt members of the elite and even capitalist and imperialist interests.

Understandably, such a regime will meet instant opposition from the local capitalists and their imperialist masters, who will take measures to undermine and eventually replace it with an outright, reliable capitalist government. At the same time, unless the regime is prepared to break fully with capitalism and imperialism, it will not be able to satisfy the aspirations and needs of the masses for any long period, particularly given the increased imperialist domination of the world and greater pressure for deregulation and privatization from multinational corporations, IMF, World Bank, etc., in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Socialists will support any action taken by the regime that serves the interests of the masses and against capitalism and imperialism. But support for such actions would not mean socialists participating in or supporting such a military regime. We would explain that partial measures, while perhaps providing temporary relief, could not solve the fundamental problems of society. Only a program for the overthrow of the capitalist system and the transformation of society along socialist lines could lay the basis for a lasting solution. Such a program could only be based upon the democratic control and management of every sector of society by elected representatives of the working masses (including youth and the armed forces) and the establishment of workers’ and poor peasants government. It is only this socialist approach that can prevent the reactionary forces of capitalism and landlordism from regaining their lost positions and privileges by either overthrowing a radical regime or subverting it from within, a process they successfully carried out in Ghana after 1982.